Around 20 years ago (neither of us can remember the exact date) I taught Felix to flyfish. Or more accurately, I gave him his first flyfishing lesson, since literally teaching someone to flyfish assumes an endpoint which I haven’t arrived at myself, let alone been able to pass on to someone else.
Anyway, if you haven’t heard the story already it was as if Felix and flyfishing had been just waiting to meet up. It quickly became his favourite pastime, leaving his windsurfer and other toys to quietly decay in the garage. Whenever Felix’s hectic IT exec life allowed (which of course was less often than he liked) he’d jump in the car or on a plane and go fishing. Finally, the imbalance became too much and he moved to New Zealand and bought a fishing lodge. That’s all an oversimplification of Felix’s fishing biography and how he came to own Owen River Lodge, but you get the idea.
Since that first lesson, Felix and I have been good friends and most years we catch up and go fishing – occasionally at my place but usually at his. Last night I flew back from a few days fishing at the lodge. I arrived late last Friday afternoon and took off for a fish close by while Felix looked after guests from Perth, Dallas and somewhere in Wales I can’t spell. (Sorry Howell!) I had a three pounder within a few casts on an Antron Caddis and feeling very pleased with myself, subsequently stumbled onto two huge fish in the tail of the next pool, properly spooking one and sending another into that NQR state that results in casual, heart-stopping inspections of your fly but no take. Chastened, I found another big brown in the next pool before he found me, but I got a tinsy bit of drag at the wrong moment and that fish was gone too. Time for dinner.
The next day we had a glorious morning to nymphing fish on another nearby stretch, then a tough afternoon as heavy rain set in. Day three saw plenty of rivers up and discoloured after a 2-3 inches of rain, but in this mountainous region it’s very rare for the rain to affect everything and heading east we found a clear, little known river. Unfortunately the looks weren’t matched by the fishing and ironically, one of the lodge guides who stayed local and had his guests focus on the edges, had a great day.
On my last day we drove to the mighty Wairau. The weather was idyllic, but for the first few stretches the fishing was either tough or we weren’t seeing them well enough. Then we reached a section of river where it all changed. Suddenly, there were big browns lined up taking small dries – except for the monster that would only eat a nymph after five dry fly changes, which then charged up river, charged back, jammed itself under a nearby rock, then unceremoniously came off – my fly came back unscathed.
This is the New Zealand paradise we dream of but don’t always get – impossibly clear water, large browns feeding off the top (mostly!) and all too willing to eat a dry. Magic! It was hard to leave, but at least I finished up with a trout in my hand while Felix generously went back to get the car.